Jurors Play Key Role in Justice System
Each year, millions of Californians serve their communities and put into practice a fundamental American ideal of justice: the right to trial by jury. Juror Appreciation Week is one way the California courts thank these citizens for fulfilling their obligation and making the justice system work.
Recent Efforts to Improve the Jury System
Following are a few current initiatives to improve the jury system in California:
- Improving the Juror Experience: A new interim report from a judicial branch pandemic initiatives workgroup recommends expanding the number and diversity of people able to fulfill jury service by increasing juror pay, adjusting reporting times, and providing remote options for portions of jury service.
- Reforming Jury Selection: The California Supreme Court named a Jury Selection Work Group to study whether modifications or additional measures are needed to guard against impermissible discrimination in jury selection.
- Public Transit for Jurors: The Judicial Council has sponsored AB 1981, proposed legislation that would expand access to affordable public transit for jurors, as well as study statewide impacts on diversity and participation in jury service by increasing juror compensation.
California’s official jury orientation video provides an overview of the juror experience, including the jury selection process, the trial, jury deliberations, and the verdict. An accompanying vignette explores the history of jury service through to the present day as our juries have become a more diverse and inclusive part of our court system.
Additional Improvements to Jury Service
Following are a few more ways California courts have made the civic right and obligation of jury service more convenient for its citizens:
- One Day or One Trial Jury Service: California has one-day or one-trial jury service. If not chosen for a jury panel after one day of service at the courthouse, a juror’s service is done for at least one year. If you are selected to serve on a jury, after the trial is over your service is also completed for at least a year and often longer. In fact, the majority of people who report for jury service serve for just one day.
- Postponement Allowed: California courts allow summoned jurors to postpone jury duty at least once. Rule 2.1004 of the California Rules of Court states that as long as the request is made under penalty of perjury in writing and in accordance with the court's local procedure, the jury commissioner should not require the prospective juror to appear at court to make the request in person. Further postponements may be granted at the court's discretion.
- Plain-Language Jury Instructions: The Judicial Council created legally accurate plain-language jury instructions that are readily understood by the average juror. The council’s advisory committees on jury instructions regularly review new case law and statutes and make recommendations to the council for updating the instructions. Use of the new jury instructions is “strongly encouraged” and are recommended unless a judge “finds that a different instruction would more accurately state the law and be understood by jurors.”
- Raising Juror Pay: The Superior Court of San Francisco County is piloting a program created by state legislation to increase the diversity of jurors able to serve by raising juror pay to $100 per day for low- and middle-income individuals.
In addition, many courts have added new technologies to streamline jury service, such as check-in kiosks, online and phone check-in, and updates via text message.
Juror Appreciation Week
In 1998, the California Legislature designated the second full week in May to honor the sacrifices and contributions of citizens who devote their time and effort to "making the cherished right of trial by jury a reality and to raise awareness about their contribution to our courts."